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Posts Tagged ‘MoMA’

The Hattifatteners at Bedtime, and Other News

December 19, 2014 | by

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Tove Jansson‘s Hattifatteners.

  • On a new biography of Tove Jansson: “She discovered lesbian love … Biographies invariably contain a section on her sexuality and this one is no exception. Its insight that the creatures in Moominland called the Hattifatteners ‘resemble a wandering flock of penises or condoms’ is a point to ponder when reading aloud at bedtime.”
  • What are the most important questions to ask ourselves when we read? “What is the emotional atmosphere behind this narrative? That’s the question I suppose I’m asking—and what is the consequent debate arising from that atmosphere?”
  • The Chinese term for “effortless action” is wu wei. You’ll soon see it in self-help texts—and why not? Striving to try less hard may, in fact, be very self-helpful. “Wu wei is integral to romance, religion, politics and commerce. It’s why some leaders have charisma and why business executives insist on a drunken dinner before sealing a deal.”
  • “A raucous, Sherlock Holmes–themed pantomime called ‘Mrs. Hudson’s Christmas Corker’ might not sound like the most highbrow play that London has to offer. But if you sample enough of the mulled wine being served in the foyer beforehand, you begin to see it differently.”
  • Matisse’s cutouts are now—and not for the first time—the toast of the art world. But when he made them, he wasn’t so sure: “Matisse worried that working with cut paper was cheating—a shortcut to painting—and he kept it a secret. ‘It is necessary not to say anything about this,’ he wrote to his son Pierre, in 1931.”

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Art Amnesty

December 9, 2014 | by

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Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?

Many artists delude themselves into believing that they are promising, productive artists when they would live much more fulfilled and useful lives engaged in proper employment. I PROMISE NEVER TO MAKE ART AGAIN provides a baptism of necessary real life and allows artists to “Get Real.” Ditch a life of poverty and precarious self-employment! Don't miss a life-changing opportunity.

Art: It’s had a good run.

You know, there was the Venus of Willendorf. And the Dutch Masters—remember them?—and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, all with some very nice work. And Picasso! Who could forget Picasso?

But we’ve come to the end of the line, more or less. The art world may continue apace, with its Jeff Koonses and its Damien Hirsts, but most artists know only suffering. And to these artists, Bob and Roberta Smith have issued a clear message: go home, clean off your paintbrushes, and do something meaningful with your lives.

“The personal journey for most artists starts with enthusiasm and joy,” Bob and Roberta have said, “and ends, if the artist does not have huge success, in embarrassed children taking their dead parents’ work to the dump.” Read More »

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Paper Trail

December 2, 2014 | by

The invitation card for Claes Oldenburg's Store, New York, 1961.

Three years ago, PPP Editions published a limited-edition book called 100 Fanzines / 10 Years of British Punk 1976–1985. I have a copy and keep intending to give it to any number of friends who know more about the Clash, the Mo-dettes, or Attila the Stockbroker than I do, but I haven’t yet handed it over. I certainly wasn’t a fixture of the Thatcher-era punk scene, but I nonetheless feel nostalgic when I look through the book. The cover of Verbal Warfare no. 1, from 1981, contains the line “Beware of the serpent that twines around the cross … his body, the living dead at their production lines,” and I notice that it’s written in a script that resembles my sister’s eighth-grade cursive. I’m transfixed by the the ratty hand-drawn graphics and raw, energetic designs, not to mention the silliness and badassery of titles like Ignorance of the Unborn, Terminal Illiteracy, Surrey Vomet, and Raisin ’ell (number 10 is the special “This issue sucks!” edition). I also love the zines’ materiality: the staples in the bindings, the softly foxed corners, the smudges, visible erasure marks, and toner streaks. The idea that these are at once mass-produced publications (you can almost feel a phantom photocopier heat coming off the page) and rare objects—always already ephemeral—is fascinating.

The very notion of ephemera is curious: objects of little value that weren’t meant to be preserved but whose vulnerability, I imagine, appealed to someone. Political buttons, business cards, seed packets, and train timetables—scrappy artifacts that otherwise would have been lost to the dustheap. Even ephemera’s subcategories—like “fugitive materials” and “gray literature”—are suitably mothy and eccentric. In the art world, potential ephemera is everywhere: small-edition artist books, exhibition posters, flyers, announcement cards, invitations, press releases. The Museum of Modern Art Library, in New York, houses an extensive archive populated by such materials. A photograph of the files at MoMA QNS shows reams of folders that resemble medical records, though a bit of feathery orange fluff peeping out from one folder suggests something less sober. Through its sheer volume, the archive offers a minihistory of art and of individual artists.

David Senior, a bibliographer at MoMA Library, curated an exhibition around the archive; “Please Come to the Show” was on view last year in New York and earlier this year at the Exhibition Research Centre in Liverpool. It must have been fun digging through all the files and (re)discovering canon-adjacent materials like Claes Oldenburg’s blue, slightly stained business card/invitation to The Store; Nancy Spero’s pugnacious, textual invitation to “Torture of Women”; and an announcement, addressed to Frank O’Hara, of the premier of Warhol’s film Empire (admission: two dollars). Read More »

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Gertie Turns One Hundred

November 4, 2014 | by

A century ago, well before Jurassic Park or The Land Before Time or even plain old moribund Godzilla, cinema’s preeminent dinosaur was Gertie, a colorless, potentially narcoleptic herbivore, species indeterminate, fond of dancing and casting elephants into the sea. Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) was one of the first animated films; it pioneered key-frame animation, a technique in which a story’s major positions were drawn first and the intervening frames were filled in afterward. Gertie’s creator, the cartoonist Winsor McCay, made more than ten thousand drawings of her, and these, as you can see above, yielded fewer than seven minutes of animated footage. (If you want to skip straight to the Gertie goods, head to the seven-minute mark, but beware—you’ll miss some riveting live-action scenes featuring well-dressed gentlemen shaking hands, well-dressed gentlemen gathering at a dinner party, and well-dressed gentlemen smoking.)

This Friday, as part of the MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation, the animation historian John Canemaker hosts a screening of Gertie and three of McCay’s other early animations, “as well as a re-creation—with audience participation—of the legendary routine that introduced Gertie in McCay’s vaudeville act.” No elephants will be harmed.

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Das Kapital Commodified, and Other News

July 7, 2014 | by

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Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marx’s portrait appeared on banknotes of the highest value. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

  • On Thursday, just as the Dow Jones closed at an all-time high, a first edition of Marx’s Das Kapital sold for $40,000.
  • Searching for Orwell in Scotland: “I had come to Jura, a remote island on Scotland’s west coast, to find the solitude George Orwell had sought sixty-five years earlier to finish his classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four … [I] wanted to understand why a man so accustomed to city life had come to an inaccessible island of only 190 souls to find inspiration for a novel about totalitarianism in an urbanized state—why a writer at the peak of his celebrity ensconced himself in an austere farmhouse hidden in an inhospitable Scottish landscape.”
  • Paola Antonelli is “one of MoMA’s most prominent, and provocative, curators”: “Petite and energetic, she is prone to fanciful descriptions of the world and its things—a verbal extension, perhaps, of a kind of object-oriented synesthesia. Design, to her, is everywhere … She has said that she believes ‘the age of design is upon us, almost like a rapture.’”
  • In commissioned books of portraits like Matthäus Schwarz’s, from the sixteenth century, we can trace the origins of “self-fashioning”: “Schwarz’s Trachtenbuch (Book of Clothes) was clearly designed for display, and on the whole it paints him in a good light … it announces Schwarz as a person of taste, a supporter of his city and family, a courtly lover, and a well-rounded Renaissance man. It is also, arguably, one of the first fashion books, a distant progenitor of a Vogue lookbook, as it were.”
  • John Wray profiles Nick Cave: “Cave’s public persona has been called ‘theatrical,’ but a more precise term might be cinematic. Like many self-mythologizers, charismatics and plain old eccentrics, he has always appeared to be performing in a movie only he himself could see.”

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Live Long and Prosper

February 27, 2014 | by

saturday's generation

Milton Glaser Collection Box 57 Folder 14: mechanical for Bloomingdale’s advertisement, c. 1970; image via Container List.

Saturday is a special day for buying and doing beautiful things. A whole day stretching ahead. It’s a new lifestyle. A man. A woman. Art exhibits. Antiquing. Movies. Cocktails. Shopping. … together. You’re searching for a special gown. You want something different. You find it at Regalia, a fully-lined chiffon and velvet gown with matching hot pants. You know fashion. You’re a member of Saturday’s Generation. —Schenectady Gazette ad for Regalia Boutique, 1971

Recently, Gothamist featured a 1976 60 Minutes story on said “Saturday’s Generation”—a short-lived term for the young people who “walk and glide, trip and mince, and stride” through a Bloomingdale’s of a Saturday, doing and buying beautiful things and picking each other up.

In the segment, Blair Sabol (of the Village Voice) describes Saturday’s Generation in terms that, today, may as well be a foreign language, but that seem to spell out proto-yuppie. “I think of a couple, and they live on the Upper East Side, and they have chrome and glass furniture, and they’ve got the brie cheese, and they’re wearing the Famous Amos T-shirt, and they’ve got the right patch jeans … that’s a very heavy identity.” Read More »

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